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Sun, May 19

Column: #Gamergate shows trolls at their worst

It's Game Over for Gamers.

"Sexism and Misogyny in Video Game Culture."

"#Gamergate is really about terrorism."

Those are headlines pulled from articles on the latest gamer-centered controversy that's been on a slow simmer since this summer. #Gamergate (and yes, that's what they're calling it) spawned from one incident in the gaming journalism world, but very quickly split into a handful of issues diverse enough to give Occupy Wall Street protesters a run for "least-focused movement ever."

On one end of the spectrum sit the "gamers," who are really a minority of misogynistic trolls parading themselves as gamers with a score to settle. They are demanding an end to alleged corruption in video game journalism.

On the other end is Anita Sarkeesian, the controversial feminist who built her brand off of dissecting media. She's jumped to the defense of Zoe Quinn, a game developer who was accused of sleeping with a journalist and, in return, receiving positive coverage of her game.

In the middle are you and me, the 99 percent of gamers who enjoy Candy Crush and who are, for the most part, completely normal consumers of media.

And then there's the media, which views #Gamergate (I really hate hashtags) as a way to reel in that tech-savvy demographic who doesn't usually fall for clickbait nonsense (I'm talking to you, Huffington Post).

The media has jumped on the Sarkeesian bandwagon and is masquerading their push for readers as genuine coverage on feminism. They've targeted video games in the past, so they're in familiar territory when it comes to stirring that pot.

They know that gamers loathe Sarkeesian, and it's very easy to see why. If you're not familiar with Anita Sarkeesian, she's the executive director of "Feminist Frequency," a nonprofit feminist group that looks at how women are represented in media and creates educational videos discussing these roles.

Her nonprofit was funded after a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $100,000 to create videos on YouTube exploring female representation in media. Her most successful series looks at video games like Mario and asks why Princess Peach is always helplessly locked away in Bowser's castle. She makes the occasional valid point, but her "better-than-thou" delivery is what infuriates gamers.

But Sarkeesian and Quinn and gamers aren't really what #Gamergate is all about. It's really about what happened when we moved our civil discourse to the Internet.

Let me be clear: debate and discussion are not evil. They are necessary for democracy to exist. The free flow of ideas and challenging those ideas is the pulse of our ideological system.

Up until the Internet, people had to stand by what they said and face their opponents when they said it. They had to be fearless and steadfast. They had to believe in what they said and bring all the facts to support it. They also had to accept defeat with poise so that you could live to fight another day.

The Internet has made us all cowards. We can all spew nonsense from the comfort of our keyboards with no repercussions or recourse. Comment sections (even the ones on this newspaper's website) are plagued with people who have axes to grind.

Misinformation is the name of the game: as long as I say it as much as I can, it must be true. That's why people are convinced that Muslims are evil or that commercial planes intentionally dump chemicals on us. I have never once read a comment section on any website and emerged feeling informed. They are trolls, even if they mistake their mischief as fact.

And that brings me back to Sarkeesian vs. gamers. It's an argument between vocal minorities utilizing the mouthpiece of the Internet. The people threatening Sarkeesian, while completely out of line, are few and far between. The media also mistakes Sarkeesian as a vanguard for feminism. She's harsh against all of those who question her, she's been accused of stealing artwork and intellectual property to support her nonprofit, and she also utilizes arguments that are severely flawed because of how nit-picky they get.

Does misogyny exists in video gaming? Absolutely.

Is Mario oppressing women? Probably not.

Most gamers are adults, and studies time and time again have shown that games don't change our way of thinking nearly as much as people suspect. I'm not objectifying women when I play Tomb Raider, nor am I getting progressively more violent by playing Counter Strike or Call of Duty.

For kids, that comes down to commonsense parenting. Sit down with your kids and talk about what they're playing, and don't let your 10-year-old play Grand Theft Auto. They have that rating system for a reason.

And for the normal people out there, the ones sneaking in some Clash of Clans during morning meetings?

Play on. There's no shame in being a gamer, no matter how much the media/Sarkeesian slams you for it.

#Gamergate will pass, although it'll probably take a while for the trolls on the Internet to go back into their holes.


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